By Charles Matthews

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

32. A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 1098-1128


She is in the lofty and strange Eyrie, pretending to be Alayne Stone. It is a lonely place, with her only usual company her aunt, her elderly maid, and "the Lord Robert, eight going on three." Marillion is there, too, and he is still putting the moves on her, singing songs addressed to Sansa, to Lysa's irritation: "Her aunt was far from pleased. Lady Lysa doted on Marillion, and had banished two serving girls and even a page for telling lies about him." (Marillion swings both ways?) Littlefinger is often away, dealing with troubles in the Vale.

She gets up and opens the shutters to discover that it is snowing. She remembers happier times when it would snow at Winterfell, and gets up and dresses warmly. In the garden she starts to make snowballs, remembering a snowball fight with Arya, but there is no one to fight with. She decides to make a snow castle, and "before very long Sansa knew it was Winterfell."

Her maid calls down to ask if she wants breakfast, but Sansa says no. Lysa looks down briefly from her balcony, and Maester Colemon watches her for a while from the rookery. She is trying to build a bridge that will stay up when Littlefinger appears and tells her to pack the snow around a stick for support. He recognizes it as Winterfell, and says he used to dream of it. "In my dreams it was ever a dark place, and cold." Sansa replies that it was warm, heated by the hot springs, and that "inside the glass gardens it was always like the hottest day of summer."

She sets out to make the glass roof over the gardens, and he shows her how to create the frame from twigs. He pauses for a moment to observe that she is smiling, perhaps for the first time since her deliverance from King's Landing. Playfully, she tosses some snow at him. He says, "I told you that nothing could please me more than to help you with your castle. I fear that was a lie as well. Something else would please me more." He pulls her to him and kisses her.

She pulls away from him and protests for the sake of Lysa, but he persists: "I think you might be even more beautiful than your mother was your age." He reminds her of the drunken Marillion. But then they are interrupted by Lord Robert, who is carrying "the threadbare cloth doll he carried everywhere." When she tells him it is Winterfell, "The great castle of the north," Robert pretends to be a giant and, swinging the doll, knocks down parts of it. Sansa appeals to him to stop, and grabs the doll, ripping off its head.

Robert wails, and then begins to have a seizure, collapsing on the castle and knocking it to pieces. Littlefinger grabs the boy's wrists and shouts for the maester. Soon a crowd of servants, trained by Lysa to respond to any sound that indicates the boy is upset, arrives and the maester gives him some dreamwine and has him taken to the maester's chambers for a leeching. Sansa says she didn't mean to rip the doll, but Robert protests, "She killed him! I hate her! She's a bastard and I hate her!"

"My lord husband," Sansa thinks as he is led away. Then she angrily sticks the doll's head on a broken branch and puts it "atop the shattered gatehouse of her snow castle." Littlefinger laughs, and she leaves him there to return to her chambers. She hopes Lysa will banish her from the Eyrie, and vows to tell her that she doesn't want to marry Robert.

Late in the afternoon, Lysa sends Marillion to summon her. He tells her he is composing a song about "a baseborn girl so beautiful she bewitched every man who laid eyes upon her." She lets him accompany her to the High Hall, where he bars the doors and leaves the guards outside. Lysa is sitting on the dais, but Robert isn't there. Sansa curtsies to her, and Lysa says, "I saw what you did." Sansa says she didn't mean to rip the doll apart, but Lysa informs her that that's not what she saw: "I saw you kissing him."

"He kissed me," Sansa replies, but Lysa insists, "You threw yourself at him." Sansa persists in her defense, but Lysa won't hear it: "They all tried to take him from me. My lord father, my husand, your mother ... Catelyn most of all. She liked to kiss my Petyr too, oh yes she did." Sansa backs away and says, "My mother?" But Lysa rants on about how Catelyn tried to win Littlefinger, asking, "But you remember none of it, do you? ... Do you?" Sansa is confused, and protests that she wasn't born, and wonders if Lysa is "drunk, or mad?" Lysa rambles on about giving her virginity to Littlefinger. "He told me he loved me then, but he called me Cat, just before he fell back to sleep." Sansa is terrified, and asks if she may leave, but Lysa says no.

Then she tells Sansa that she was forced to marry Jon Arryn, who took her even though he knew she wasn't a virgin. She and Littlefinger, she says, "made a baby together, a precious little baby.... When they stole him from me, I made a promise to myself that I would never let it happen again." They wanted to send Robert to Dragonstone, she says, or to marry him to Cersei, but she prevented it. Sansa says what she thinks Lysa wants to hear: "I swear, I won't every kiss him again, or ... entice him." But Lysa takes this as a confession, and seizes Sansa by the wrist, calling out to command Marillion to sing a song, "The False and the Fair."

As he sings, Lysa drags Sansa toward "a white weirwood door set in the marble wall" and held in place by bronze bars. Sansa recognizes it as the Moon Door. Lysa commands her to raise the bars, and Sansa goes along, hoping that if she obeys Lysa will come to her senses. When the bars are removed, the wind blows the door open with a bang. Lysa begins to push her toward the door, and when they reach the opening tells her to look down. "There was nothing in front of her but empty air, and a waycastle six hundred feet below clinging to the side of the mountain."

Marillion continues to sing as Sansa struggles with Lysa at the door. Finally, Sansa grabs her aunt's hair as they teeter on the brink. Lysa shrieks, "Let go of my hair!" Outside, the guards have heard the disturbance and bang on the door, and Marillion stops singing. Then Littlefinger enters from the unguarded back way, and asks what Lysa is doing. Lysa grabs Sansa's hair and says, "She kissed you.... I was teaching her a lesson, that was all." Littlefinger says, "I think she understands now. Isn't that so, Alayne?" Sansa sobs that she does.

Lysa says that Sansa doesn't belong her, and Littlefinger assures her that they'll send her away. "Let her up, now. Let her away from the door." But Lysa cries, "NO!" grasping Sansa tighter.
Tears ran down her aunt's puffy red face. "I gave you my maiden's gift. I would have given you a son too, but they murdered him with moon tea, with tansy and mint and wormwood, a spoon of honey and a drop of pennyroyal. It wasn't me, I never knew, I only drank what Father gave me...."
So the tansy that Lord Hoster talked about in his final delirium was not a woman, as Catelyn thought, but an abortifacient.

Littlefinger moves closer, trying to quiet Lysa. "We don't want Alayne to know more than she should, do we? Or Marillion?" But Lysa refuses to let go of Sansa's hair. "I saw you kissing in the snow. She's just like her mother. Catelyn kissed you in the godswood, but she never meant it, she never wanted you." Littlefinger comes closer. "There's no cause for all these tears," he says, and the word reminds Lysa of the poison, the tears of Lys, that she says Littlefinger told her to put in Jon Arryn's wine. She wrote to Catelyn to say the Lannisters did it, just as he suggested. "We're together now, we're together after so long, so very long, why would you want to kiss herrrrrr?"

Littlefinger assures her that they will be together now, forever. Lysa asks, "Truly?" And Littlefinger replies, "Truly. Now unhand the girl and come give me a kiss." Lysa lets go of Sansa, who crawls away from the Moon Door and grasps a pillar firmly. Littlefinger lets Lysa hold him for a moment, then puts his hands on her arms and assures her, "I've only loved one woman, I promise you." Lysa wants him to swear it: "Only one?"

"Only Cat," he says, and pushes her out the Moon Door. Marillion gasps in surprise. Then Littlefinger goes to Sansa, sees that she's all right, and tells her, "Run let my guards in, then. Quick now, there's no time to lose. This singer's killed my lady wife."


Merrett Frey has come to ransom his nephew, Petry, known as Petyr Pimple. He had volunteered for the task, despite the derision of his father, Lord Walder. Merrett is waiting for the old man,who is almost ninety-two, to die, though when he thinks about it, he's not sure if his successor, whoever that may be among his many prodigy, will be better. It was Lord Walder who ordered the massacre of the Red Wedding, but the plot had been laid by Lame Lothar, along with Roose Bolton, even "down to which songs would be played." So there is likely to be a bloodbath among the sons when Lord Walder dies. Merrett himself is ninth in line of succession, and possessed of no particular skills or luck. After being beaned by a mace in a tourney, he has suffered from crippling headaches.

He thought his luck had changed when Roose Bolton chose his daughter, Fat Walda, for a wife, but his father soon disabused him of that notion: Bolton had chosen her because of her weight, because the promised dowry was his bride's weight in silver and not because Bolton liked the prospect of a connection with "Merrett Muttonhead." Even at the Red Wedding, he had been assigned the task of getting the Greatjon too drunk to fight, and he had failed at that.

But now if he could bring back Petyr Pimple, it might put him in favor with Petyr's father, Ser Ryman, the heir apparent to the Twins. The meeting with the outlaws holding Petyr has been set for Oldstones. He hears music and follows the sound to find a man we recognize as Tom Sevenstrings, playing on a woodharp. Then a harsh voice asks if he has brought the gold, and Merrett finds himself surrounded by outlaws. With them is a woman in a hooded cloak. The speaker, "a big bearded man with crooked green teeth and a broken nose," repeats his question, and Merrett tells him it's in his saddlebag and he'll produce it when he sees Petyr. But another of the outlaws simply steps forward, reaches in the saddlebag, and finds the money.

Panicked that they will take the money and keep Petyr too, Merrett asks which one of the men is Beric Dondarrion, thinking that because he had been a lord before he was an outlaw, Dondarrion "might still be a man of honor." A couple of the men claim to be Dondarrion, and then begin to quarrel over which of them really is. So he asks for his nephew -- "actually more a great half-nephew, but there was no need to go into that" -- and says he'll be gone. A man in a yellow cloak says he's in the godswood and he'll take Merrett to him.

"Petyr Pimple was hanging from the limb of an oak, a  noose tight around his long thin neck." Merrett protests that he wasn't supposed to be killed, and that he had kept his end of the bargain, but suddenly finds a noose around his own neck. "You'd never dare hang a Frey," he says, and the man in the yellow cloak replies, "That other one, the pimply boy, he said the same thing." Merrett says his father will pay more to ransom him, but Sevenstrings says Lord Walder isn't the kind to be fooled twice: "Next time he'll send a hundred swords instead of a hundred dragons, I fear." Then he offers to let Merrett go if he'll tell them where they can find Sandor Clegane.

Merrett has no idea, so the singer tells Lem to go ahead with the hanging. Merrett pleads, "I have children," and the one-eyed outlaw replies, "That Young Wolf never will." Merrett protests that Robb had shamed them with his marriage.
"It was vengeance, we had a right to our vengeance. It was war. Aegon, we called him Jinglebell, a poor lackwit never hurt anyone, Lady Stark cut his throat.... Stark's direwolf killed four of our wolfhounds and tore the kennelmaster's arm off his shoulder, even after we'd filled him full of quarrels..."
Lem, the man in the yellow cloak, says, "So you sewed his head on Robb Stark's neck after both o' them were dead." Merrett says it was his father's idea. "All I did was drink. You wouldn't kill a man for drinking." He remembers hearing that Beric Dondarrion always lets a man have a trial. "I only drank some wine ... you have no witness."

But they do, the singer says, and the woman comes forward and lowers his hood. Merrett can't believe what he's seeing: "No. No, I saw her die. She was dead for a day and night before they stripped her naked and threw her body in the river. Raymund opened her throat from ear to ear. She was dead."

The gash in Catelyn's neck is hidden by her cloak, but her flesh is soft and "the color of curdled milk." She has lost half of her hair and what remains is white, and her face is "shredded skin and black blood where she had raked herself with her nails." Her eyes are full of hatred.  Lem says she can't speak because the cut in her throat went too deep. He asks her if he took part in it, and she nods. Merrett is hoist in the air, "kicking and twisting, up and up and up."

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